Ascension: Dawn of Champions is a game by Justin Gary, published by Stone Blade Entertainment. It is a stand-alone game for 1-4 players but can be combined as an expansion with any of the other versions of Ascension as well. Doing this makes it possible to play with up to 6 players. In this game, players will take on the role of one of four different faction leaders. They will be trying to build their reputation to unlock different abilities. They will also be building their decks by acquiring heroes and defeating monsters. The player that is able to gain the most honor will be declared the winner.
To begin, the board is placed on the table. The Heavy Infantry, Mystic and Cultist cards are placed on their respective places on the board. Each player is given 8 apprentice and 2 militia cards. They will then shuffle their cards together. Each player then draws 5 cards from their deck. The remaining cards, that are not apprentice or militia cards, are shuffled together and placed face down on the board to form the main deck. The first 6 cards are drawn from this deck and are placed face up in each of the available slots on the board in a line. The silver bordered Champion Hero cards are handed out with the corresponding oversized card either randomly or players may choose which Hero to play. Thirty honor tokens are placed on the board for each player. The large red Honor tokens are worth 5 points and the small white tokens are worth 1 point. The first player is chosen randomly. Play now begins.
On a player’s turn, they will draw 5 cards and then play those cards from their hand in any order to gain runes and power. Runes will allow them to acquire more powerful heroes. Power will allow the player to defeat monsters which will give them Honor. When a player plays a construct hero, these cards will remain in play and provide special abilities once the proper conditions have been met. Sometimes monsters will have a special reward ability called Trophy. This allows the player to hold onto the special ability from that card till they decide to use it. These are the basics of game play.
What makes this different from previous sets are a couple of new things. First off is the new keyword Rally. What this does is when an effect says to Rally, it will give a certain type of characteristic, like a faction for instance. If the next card that enters the center row is of the characteristic mentioned, then the player is able to acquire or defeat it without paying the cost for it. The game has lots of multifaction heroes and constructs as well as monsters that make this Rally ability a very powerful ability. The other new feature is the Champions. This is one of the 4 new oversized cards that a player starts with. Each of these characters has 4 reputation powers on them. These explain how to gain reputation mostly by acquiring or defeating a corresponding type of card or by paying 2 runes for 1 reputation. There are powers that unlock once a certain threshold has been met. The first of which is to gain the silver hero card that was placed with the oversized card before beginning the game. Each one is placed in the discard pile and once drawn is able to be played like any other card. The last power allows the player to Rally the corresponding champions faction.
Once a player has played all of their cards and can no longer acquire heroes or defeat monsters, they will end their turn, discarding all the cards they played and drawing five new cards to replenish their hand. Play then passes to the next player. This continues back and forth until the last Honor token has been earned. This signals the end of the game. The player finishes their turn and now the game is over. Players then add up the star points from the bottom left hand side of the cards in their deck and the Honor tokens that they collected. The player with the most points is the winner.
This game comes with lots of new cards. It comes with enough starting cards for 4 players. It also has plenty of mystics and heavy infantry cards, as well as the single cultist card. There are the 4 oversized champion cards, one for each faction, as well as the corresponding hero card that goes with it. There are the center deck cards that players will be trying to acquire for their own decks. If that’s not enough, there are 50 honor tokens equally split between red and clear as well as the new reputation tokens. That’s a whole bunch of stuff. The cards have a really great look to them. It looks like the art design has been changed to a new format which looks really great but is not the old unique designs from previous games. I really love the champion cards. They are a little thicker than the cards but appear to be of the same material. The honor tokens are plastic like in previous versions while the reputation tokens are thick cardboard. The board has really bright new design and is well done. I really like how nice everything looks and feels. Everything has a bit more realism to it as opposed to the chalk sketch designs of earlier versions. Fans of the older style might not like the new designs and those that hated the old style might actually love this new version. Either way, for me as a fan of the old style, I like this just as well.
9 out of 10
The rulebook is a great piece of work. The artwork and design of it are absolutely gorgeous. There are lots of pictures and examples throughout the book. There’s a great layout picture showing how the game should be set up. All the new features are clearly highlighted so that veteran players can get right into the game. Each type of card, Hero, Construct, Monster and Champions, each have their own page with a huge picture detailing how each one works in great detail. Everything is explained really well and is simple to read and understand. There is also a selection of frequently asked questions as well as a glossary of terms and icons for quick reference. The rules also have variants for team play as well as solo play. Overall from cover to cover, it’s a beautiful looking book that covers everything you need to know about the game. A+
9 out of 10
As a fan of all things Ascension, let me state for the record that this is a truly awesome game. I really love the new champions. In a way I get the feeling of the planeswalkers in Magic the Gathering. I don’t really know if that was the inspiration for these or not but either way, I love it. For me, it gives me more of a reason to take those heroes or defeat those monsters that relate to my champion. Each champion, when played this way, gives a new experience each time you play. I really enjoy the new Rally ability as well. I like being able to gain cards without paying for them. It kinda feels like cheating but I love it. I’ve played the game several times including solo. Let me tell you, this game can be brutal at times especially solo. Many times the other player/AI would be racking up on the cards while I’m barely able to do anything thanks to an unlucky hand. Even when I lost, I still had a ton of fun playing and would quickly want to play it again. For me, that’s the hallmark of a great game.
9 out of 10
Ascension: Dawn of Champions is a light weight deck builder that takes Ascension to a new level. The game doesn’t take that long to play. Most game sessions last no longer than 30 minutes. The artwork and design are really great. Most players will either love the new look or hate it, depending on how they felt about the previous design. For me, I like it almost as much as the old look. I like how easy it is to pick out the starter and champion hero cards when cleaning up the game, thanks to the white and silver borders. Fans of Ascension will love the new features. Deck builder fans that haven’t played Ascension will enjoy the game as well. For me, this game hits on every level and is one that I thoroughly enjoy. I highly recommend this game. It’s easy to teach and simple to learn. There’s a lot of fun in this game both with others as well as solo. If you’ve never played Ascension before, now is the time to get on board and see what you’ve been missing. This is a great starting point. You won’t be disappointed.
9 out of 10
For more information about this and other great games, please check out Stone Blade Entertainment at their site.